Toby Triebel likes to think that he has a knack for grabbing an opportunity at the right time. Starting out at Goldman Sachs working in M&A during the mid-noughties boom years, he moved across to a debt restructuring role just before the financial crisis hit in 2008.
“It was a move I made by chance because I had an interest in the area, but it ended up being one of the best performing teams at Goldman just as the bank started cutting headcount elsewhere,” he says.
Most of his career moves have been motivated by “intellectual curiosity”, rather than self-interested progression, he says – he joined consultancy Alix Partners to kick-start its financial restructuring practice in 2009, before moving across to hedge fund Finisterre Capital’s credit desk simply because of an interest in emerging markets.
“My wife is Iranian and I’ve travelled a lot, so I’ve always been fascinated by emerging markets,” he says. “At Goldman in particular I was getting pigeon-holed to focus on Germany and I needed a change.”
Last year, Triebel quit the financial sector altogether to launch fintech start-up Spotcap, an online lender for small and medium-sized businesses looking to borrow up to €100k. This obviously taps into the growing trend for ex-bankers to launch their own fintech firms, but it also fills a gap left by the financial crisis. Smaller businesses are struggling to secure credit from traditional lenders – this, says Triebel, is an opportunity.
“I have a fighter mentality, which is something that attracted me to the idea of entrepreneurialism,” says Triebel. “I don’t want to say my job was boring, but generating trade ideas day after day doesn’t keep me awake at night in the same way as Spotcap does now.”
Nonetheless, it was a risk. Triebel gave up his high-paying finance job in London to return to his native Germany in order to tap into the burgeoning tech scene in Berlin. Theoretically, this was down to the proliferation of cheaper talent locally, but hiring has been the biggest challenge.
“You can’t offer them much in the way of salary or stability, so you’re relying on people to buy into the vision and the idea,” he says.
It helps, then, that Spotcap is backed by German e-commerce firm Rocket Internet and that it received €13m in funding from venture capital investors in October last year.
Now, it has 65 employees across Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid and Sydney and Triebel says that they are “always hiring” the right people. At the moment, however, recruitment is focused on sales and technology employees.